Date- January 11, 2019
Location- Bank of canal
Elevation- 10 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 18.5 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 84.7 miles
Weather/Temp- spotty clouds/70s
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- tired of levees
Wildlife encounters- Gators, Birds, bats, possum, snake
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 5
CatFox Status- Rockstar
Food Eaten – Bacon jerky, spam, corned beef hash
I slept under a picnic table last night at a remote campsite about .3 miles off the levee. It was freezing again, so naturally nobody wanted to wake up this morning and we didn’t get hiking until just after 9am.
As we turned back onto the trail, it stretched ahead of us for 16 miles straight without so much as a bend in it. I thought I knew the definition of monotony yesterday, but today gave me an even more comprehensive lesson.
“Dull” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what today was. Even the Alligators all looked and acted the same.
Although it wasn’t terribly hot, the sun was still strong, and you could feel the temperature steadily rising throughout the day. It seems to increase every hour until about 3pm, then hold till about 4pm before beginning to taper off in a way that’s noticeable.
There seemed to be clouds everywhere, but they really let us down today. We could see their dark blotches creeping across the farmlands, but always missing us – always leaving us to dry out in the sun.
A little after noon, we came across a lone Sable Palm about 20 ft tall and 75 yards off the trail on the edge of a mucky canal. We took lunch and laid out in the shade for nearly an hour before slogging on.
We crossed a highway around 3pm and found Parks sitting at a shaded roadside picnic area. We joined him for the better part of the next two hours before setting out into the rapidly cooling evening.
As the blazing sun sank behind the grid of levees, canals, and farmland – thousands of swallows came out to feed. For as far as the eye could see, they were dipping and diving along and above the canals, catching mosquitoes and other insects up until the last shred of dusky light vanished. Up until this day, I’ve never seen that many swallows at one time.
The dull gray gravel trail glowed in the pale darkness, making headlamps unnecessary. A small bat began to dive bomb us and flitter all around our heads. It seemed to be taking a special interest in Katana. I like bats, but I had a friend who was attacked and bit by one with rabies when I was a kid, so I don’t much care for aggressive ones. I don’t know how Schweppes did it, but he whapped that bat with his trekking pole after it buzzed by his face for the dozenth time. It bounced off the ground, shot back into the air and was never seen again for the rest of the evening. Even bats can learn!
Parks had left the picnic area about 20 minutes before us, but we caught up to him about a mile into our nighttime trekking and hiked together for the next two miles.
The trail became unkempt grass, and we had thin canals on either side of us. With the absence of the light colored gravel, and the potential for creepy crawlies in the weeds, the headlamps came out.
Every time we swung them from one side to the other, the red eyes of gators would reflect back from the canals – watching us with hungry patience, or perhaps worried curiosity.
At one point a pair of red eyes came up from the bank and started making their way fairly rapidly towards the trail. Schweppes yelled that a gator was coming for us, but when it materialized in the light shine it was just a possum making a dash for some tall reeds on the other side of the trail.
We cut the day at a little over 18 miles in between two canals. I had no trees to hang from once again, so I set up my hammock like a bivy about 10 yards from the bank of the canal. I suspect we’ll get a lot of condensation here, but the landscape doesn’t change for another ten miles and we’re not going any further.
Katana did spectacular once again. The little thing wants to hike, and she can do so for a little while, but the smells always get the best of her. I suppose it’s all she has now, so I can’t blame her – but it plays hell on our pace when we’re trying to move from water cache to water cache. Plus, I don’t want her to get so far behind that I can’t intercept her if she starts wandering towards the waters edge. That’s something I’ve been extremely wary of throughout this stretch. I can only imagine how much those gator’s mouths are watering watching her prance down the trail only 15 to 20 yards from snapping distance.
We’ll hit our first full sized town tomorrow on the shores of Lake Okeechobee – a place called Clewiston. We’ll have just under 20 miles to get in there, but we plan to get our first hotel room when we do. Shooting for a fast paced day, but we’ll see what happens…